What to Know About Shoplifting Laws in Virginia
Each day, there are an average of 550 shoplifting incidents in the United States—making it the country’s #1 property crime. While it is usually thought of as taking something from a store that wasn’t paid for, other acts can also be considered shoplifting. For example, under the shoplifting laws in Virginia, you can be charged if you walk out of a store with unpaid merchandise, if you change the price tag on an item, or if you pay a lesser price for merchandise without negotiating with the owner. The Virginia code also considers transferring items from one container to another an act of shoplifting. The bottom line is, if you make merchandise your own by defrauding the merchant, it can be considered shoplifting. Even if you hide merchandise in your clothes and never leave the store is enough to be conviced under the shoplifting laws in Virginia because it is considered evidence that you intended to steal. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, shoplifting is punished as a larceny and it can be charged one of two ways: as a petit larceny shoplifting or as a grand larceny shoplifting. Let’s look at each of these separately.
Petit Larceny Shoplifting
Considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, the courts use the charge of petit larceny when the amount of items stolen is valued at less than $200. The penalties for petit larceny include jail time of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500. It’s important to know that if you’re with someone who shoplifted, and are found to have assisted the thief – even just by not turning them in – you can be found guilty of the exact same crime. That is also true for knowingly receiving, concealing, hiding or buying stolen goods.
Grand Larceny Shoplifting
The shoplifting laws in Virginia consider grand larceny a felony, and it carries a sentence of between one and 20 years in jail. Depending on the value of the items, sometimes this felony charge can be reduced to be a misdemeanor—which can lessen both the fine and the jail time assessed. Again, if you helped a shoplifter in some way, you can be found guilty of grand larceny shoplifting and can face the same sentence as if you’d carried out the crime yourself. In addition, the merchant from whom the merchandise was stolen can sue shoplifters in civil court. They can do this to recover the stolen property, or – if the merchandise cannot be recovered in good condition – they can sue for up to two times its value. In addition, the retailer can sue for reasonable attorney fees and costs of up to $150. The shoplifting laws in Virginia allow store security to detain a suspected shoplifter for up an one hour, until law enforcement arrives. To prosecute, eyewitnesses (including security personnel, employees or customer) and surveillance video may be used as evidence of guilt. If you have been charged with shoplifting, obtaining legal counsel is crucial. An experienced attorney may be able to help get charges reduced or penalties lessened. If you’ve been charged under the shoplifting laws in Virginia, contact an attorney as soon as possible to help you with your case. The law office of Petrovich and Walsh can assist. Centrally located in Fairfax, our knowledgeable staff serves all of Northern Virginia. With more than 20 years of experience, we are here to help you or a loved one who faces shoplifting charges in the Commonwealth of Virginia.